Now the Americans are about to try to replicated the success of the Japanese. Yesterday, after a two year journey, a spacecraft transporting the robotic explorer dubbedÂ Osiris-Rex arrived at another asteroid, this one named Bennu. It’s currently orbiting the asteroid at a mere 19km and will get closer as the days go on.
Bennu is thought to be about 500 meters across and is about 122 million km away from Earth. The spacecraft will orbit it for a year before scooping just over 60 grams of material and sending back to earth. Its booty is expected back around 2023.
The purpose of the mission is to better understand the birth of the solar system, as the asteroid is thought to date back 4.5 billion years, around the time the solar system came into existence.
Bennu is also thought to be something of a risk for us, as it’s getting closer and closer to Earth with every pass. They predict it could hit the Earth in about 150 years and cause significant damage. From this mission, they also hope to be better able to understand how to avert that potential calamity.